Singapore bans display of photos of Kurdish rebels

AP News
Posted: Jun 23, 2016 10:57 AM

SINGAPORE (AP) — Singaporean authorities have banned a display of photos of Kurdish rebels, saying they threaten public order and national security.

The banned photos, by Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian, were to be part of an exhibit running through July 9 linked to the Singapore International Festival of Arts in August. Her work has been published in TIME magazine, The New York Times and National Geographic.

Some of the banned photos featured Kurdish women in military uniforms and carrying arms. They belong to the YPG, Kurdish People's Protection Units, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which seeks Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey and is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.

Some YPG units are fighting the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The pictures depicted "members from a terrorist-linked organization, who had committed acts of violence to further their cause" such as suicide bombings, the Media Development Authority of Singapore said in a statement Thursday.

"Singapore takes a firm stand against extremism, and will not allow photographs that undermine public order, national security and stability to be displayed," the statement said.

Festival organizers said authorities ordered the removal of 15 photos selected for the exhibit, "I Know Why The Rebel Sings," which features scenes in Iran and humanitarian tragedies around the world.

The banned photos are represented in the exhibit with "blackout pictures," director Ong Keng Sen said in a speech on Wednesday, when the exhibit opened.

"You can see the black spots where they were visually," he said. "I suppose in Singapore if you have a cause, it can be a little too much."

Tavakolian is scheduled to give a talk in Singapore at the end of June.

All public art exhibitions, concerts and plays in Singapore must be approved by authorities.

In February, pop superstar Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour was restricted to those above the age of 18. Earlier this month, following complaints from the public, a kiss between two male actors was removed from a production of the musical "Les Miserables."